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Blue flu for Enda as Shatter spectre haunts Ard Fheis

Enda wasn't happy. He was sporting a visage so grave that one almost expected the skull of Yorick to materialise on the ledge in front of him.

For several weeks now, the Shatter Shenanigans have continued to haunt the Government like a particularly persistent spectre at the Fine Gael feast. Between alleged bugging of the Garda Ombudsman's office, the protracted penalty points controversy, the sacking by the Justice Minister of the garda confidential recipient Oliver Connolly, and the emergence of fresh whistleblower dossiers claiming garda malpractice that have ended up on his desk, the Taoiseach is suffering from a right dose of the blue flu.

Given the high levels of hoohah over the never-ending slew of revelations, the first session of Leader's Questions this week was a surprisingly subdued affair.

Enda circled his wagons at speed, with the evident intention of heading off at the pass any posse of whooping, blood-thirsty Indians intent on carrying off the scalp of Alan Shatter.

Unsurprisingly, Micheal Martin sped out of the opposition traps like a starving whippet, a trifle dizzy perhaps to find himself inhaling the unfamiliar and intoxicating air of the high moral ground – a spot that Fianna Fail hasn't occupied for some time. He had various demands to put to the Taoiseach regarding recent events, concluding that "the only way to deal with this is to initiate a commission of investigation with full High Court powers and compellability".

The muffled sound of knives being sharpened emanated from the opposition seats. Since the Fianna Fail leader revealed that he had passed on the dossier of claims to the Taoiseach, the Department of Justice had taken on the uncharacteristic characteristics of a Sphinx.

Silence had fallen, even as various calls for a full-blown independent inquiry and/or the head of the Justice Minister grew louder.

But following the weekly cabinet meeting where a battle plan for a mixed strategy of part-counter-attack, part-evasive manoeuvres had been drawn up, the Taoiseach had come prepared into Leader's Questions and – for a change – had some concrete answers to the questions raised.

Wearing his serious face, he announced a variety of measures, from the appointment of a criminal lawyer, Sean Guerin, to review the allegations of cases of garda mismanagement, to a promise that Mr Shatter would be in the Dail chamber for almost the entirety of the following day to make a statement and answer any questions put to him.

Enda also promised an overhaul of the garda oversight and complaints procedures by the summer.

"It's my clear view that the current system is not working as effectively as our citizens and our police force deserve and our democracy requires. It must be modernised and reformed," he said.

The Taoiseach was refraining from rending his nice pinstripe suit, but there was a flash of irritation at the prospect of having to clean up another fine mess that his Justice Minister and various boys in blue have apparently got him into.

Poor Enda. With his party's Ard Fheis looming this weekend, he had such plans to don his toga and march through the triumphal arch of the RDS to bask in the gratitude of the masses for removing the plebs from the yoke of the troika.

Every year there's always something to rain on his parade. Two years ago, there was a massive protest outside the Ard Fheis venue over the hated Household Tax; then last year a pro-life rally turned up in Limerick.

And now Emperor Enda's plans are dashed again, thanks to the Shatter Shenanigans. How it must really bug him . . .

Irish Independent